Dear Diary... January 2021

Sunday 31st January - Chop and Canal

It was time this morning to get up, set the clippers to the on position, and set it to the right length, and in the bathroom, start to cut the hair. And then cut some more. And also keep cutting. By the time I had spent around half an hour or so getting the clippers in operation, I had pretty much cut the hair to mostly the desired length that I wanted to, and once I had a shower and a wash of my hair it all felt a lot better, and much more manageable. That for me was the key thing that I wanted to look decent but at the same time then not worry too much about using something I hadn't used before (had got over that hurdle already) so felt much more happier and positive.

The Love In My Heart had spoiled me with a nice breakfast too - a take on the sausage muffin with lots of nice sausages, and a really nice toasty crisped muffin too. It tasted spot on and was a good start to the day before The Love got herself and ready and changed into one of her favourite jumpers (which I adore) and with my walking shoes on, the two of us were ready to take on a walk for the afternoon and to be able to enjoy some fresh air and some peace and quiet too - well, why not? I think too that for us both to have some quality time outside was really nice to be able to do, so off we set and headed for the Ashton Canal, heading in the opposite direction from my walk yesterday.

The walk starts around lock seven and there's three quick locks in succession before the canal takes a right turn, heads under the railway with a very low bit of headroom (anything over six foot tall - you'd better duck) and around the back of one of the local gasometers before then passing many former mill buildings which are now used as artists' and recording music studios due to their open space. In fact the further you walk down the canal, and down towards the lower locks, you pass the little crossing over one lock to New Islington tram stop, and eventually reach Great Ancoats Street. We followed that towards the new Ancoats developments, and it was nice to see it all quiet.

In fact, the only place that appeared to be open locally, apart from the Ancoats General Store, was the coffee shop inside Halle St Peter's, which was available for takeaway only, as per current guidance. We did get a coffee each from there and sat outside in the adjacent square, even though it was windy, and was able to have a good natter and also enjoy the coffee together. We stopped off at the nearby Co-Op to get a couple of essentials and then walked back towards Jersey Street, following that round and then back towards Old Mill Street, crossing to head back to the Ashton Canal and following that back the way we came and homewards. We had done around three and a half miles plus, a nice walk all told.

Later on The Love made us some lovely food for tea - a really nice bit of beef in chianti with some vegetables and potatoes, which was lovely. I also had a good chat with a friend of mine and was nice to work out a few things together too. Sometimes it's just good to be able to talk and the thing I think everyone is missing at the moment is a proper face to face chatter. I think that's what I miss the most - The Love and I are our support bubble, but part of me knows also I need to keep as many of us safe as possible - it's only fair really. As for tune of the day I think that needs to be Cut Your Hair by Pavement, for fairly obvious reasons.

Saturday 30th January - The Power of Three

It was nice to have a relaxing Saturday morning, but also realised that my hair was growing far too long and I needed to do something about it. A few months back I got myself some Braun hair clippers that have a number of attachments so I could chop my hair and effectively give myself a number four or equivalent all over. This way it kept things neat and tidy. With that not available and me being at The Love In My Heart's place, I needed to get something similar, and so had a brainwave of sorts to resolve that. I knew I got it from Argos, and I also had some One4All Gift Cards for use, one of which could cover the cost of the same set of clippers I needed.

So of course this was an absolute no brainer really. I was able to effectively get the same one ordered, and for a local collection at a nearby Sainsburys later in the day too, so that would involve a trip on the tram later to get it. That said, it also meant that I could keep it at The Love's place, and if lockdowns continued I had one at both places - plus of course it would be useful if for example we went on holiday in the future and I wanted to take it with me from here. With that all sorted, I thought a walk was in order, so I got on my walking shoes and headed off from The Love's place towards the local canal, but this time walked via the local area first.

I soon got to the canal and it was a nice walk further uphill, reaching lock 15 at Edge Lane, where then the path generally flattened a bit and took some curves around fields, and indeed this then went to Fairfield Junction with the marina near Droylsden, so that was nice. I headed into Quality Save to get some essentials, and so made the trip two in one - exercise and food, and then once all of that was done, I was then able to take the tram back home to The Love's place, and set things up for later in the afternoon to watch the Manchester City versus Sheffield United game from the Etihad - so I could watch that with Brian the cat for company and without any disturbance.

I must admit that out of the two options, maybe I should have watched the relegation scrap between West Brom and Fulham as that proved to be a more exciting game, especially as it ended up 2-2 and was end to end stuff as both sides were desperate for the win. Manchester City were more workmanlike in their performance but got the job done with an early goal from Gabriel Jesus, and that's how it stayed throughout the remainder of the game. A second would have been nice to kill the game off, but I would take the three points any day of the week and to be effectively four points clear before Manchester United's game away to Arsenal - which they then drew and meant three points with a game in hand.

I had got the notification from Argos that my order was available to collect from the local Sainsburys and so it was off on the tram, stopped at the Sainsburys, went in with my email receipt, the staff located the order, job done. That was easy, and as easy to enjoy like Three (The Magic Number) by De La Soul (make that tune of the day as it's also used for the lottery draws), so all good. I'm probably going to chop the hair to bits tomorrow so we settled in for the evening, had some nice food for tea, and watched the likes of Pointless Celebrities and then later on The Voice to have a calm and relaxed Saturday night in together.

Friday 29th January - World of Sport

It was the last day of a really good week overall, and this morning I spent a bit of time packaging up new versions of some pieces of software that are our core applications - so it was a case of getting the installers, getting the appropriate installation information with MECM in the admin console, and then once I was able to get that all tested out, it was then a case of preparing a change ready for next week so I could include those new versions in our build task sequence. I've pretty much got those down to a tee now but still good to be able to keep things updated and nice, and follow sensible guidance that I set for others to follow as well as myself.

Once all of that was done, it was then a check over of a few machines I noticed were building at one of our sites. I knew that some preparation work was going on for some temporary staff to be taken on (which usually happens this year for something later in the year) so a cross-check with one of my colleagues showed that all was good, and in fact ready to go all round. That was a positive too as it meant all the processes in place recently meant that things were ticking over nicely where they were needed at sites, so a definite positive to be taken there too. It's good to be on a roll and had some good feedback too after some documentation I had written.

I also did get a message from a recruiter today, who was basically saying that one of their clients was looking for someone like me and that they wanted to have a chat with me. I always approach with caution and a check of the actual job specification and who the client was showed to me that it was a no-go, so politely declined. In one way it is good that people think I am employable, but in the other, I know my current employers have looked after me really well and being valued from a mental health sense as well as a financial sense really does mean that changing would be too risky, and I've changed before and things haven't worked out of course.

As we usually do during the Friday team meeting, it was time for a quiz, and I had volunteered to do one when we chatted in Wednesday's meeting. So had my thinking cap on, and last night got to work on some questions, and had worked out what I would do. So once it got to that time slot, it was on with the presentation, and I had the classic World of Sport March from the classic 70s and 80s sports Saturday programme with Dickie Davies (make that tune of the day) to set the scene for two rounds of sport questions - all with multiple choice answers to make things a bit easier if people wanted to guess and maybe fet some right if they didn't know.

The first round was a general sports knowledge round, and I had the questions based on many different sports including ice hockey, American football, cricket and tennis as well as normal football too. The second round featured some classic sports commentary with the year of when that happened. I couldn't resist a bit of Fanzone commentary in there too just to be able to mix it up a bit, and it was quite good fun to be able to do that. One person did get 16 out of 20 who won, so the difficulty was about right I think - and a nice way to finish the working week and have lots of laughs, which to be honest we all need right now to get us through another month of lockdown.

Thursday 28th January - Catching Up

It was another productive day at work today, and the afternoon was mainly spent taking part in the first of three kick off sessions for the year for our wider Technology team as a whole. It was a case of all being online at the same time and also being all ready to go so we could listen to various bits of information, and also see some intriguing slides which gave us a direction of what will be happening for the next year. It was also good to see everyone, even if only on camera, and be able to participate in some online polls as well so that got us all involved well. I guess that it was a different feeling from being at a place we were last year.

What was also good today was getting some additional preparatory work for sorting out the next stage of online machine building, so after testing out the boot media again, and having spent most of the day documenting the process, I uploaded the ISO image and some instructions how to place that on to USB boot media using Rufus, and to try it and see if you were able to see the list of task sequences. One step at a time, although if I had some test kit with me it would make sense to be able to get all of those tried out and connected wired to the router whilst it was happening too, so another case of one stage at a time and seeing what would happen.

I also decided yesterday to change the Twitter handle I used to be more about the old Commodore 64 that I still use now, so if you check the home page you'll note I've already redirected the Twitter feed to read the new handle. It was pretty easy to do overall and it just felt the right time to get things done like that - and changed my online presence on some websites to be a similar way. A change for the better and also ties in nicer with the likes of some other articles that I am planning to write later in the year too, so definitely a positive mood. We all need positives don't we, especially at the moment I think.

After having some nice pasta for tea with The Love In My Heart, I had a nice phone call with one of my friends and former work colleagues. Normally we would have got together between Christmas and New Year to have some lunch together and was able to catch up that way, but of course this wasn't happening because of the current situation. Therefore it was nice to arrange something in place where we could have a good natter and be able to put some of the world to rights whilst at the same time giving each other a good giggle. I also was able to keep up to date with what was going on at my former place, and how things had changed over the last few months.

Obviously, I would have liked nothing more than a face to face conversation for real (and to be truthful we both would have liked to) but we made the most of situation and was able to also put the world to rights on how things haven't been dealt with the right way by the Government, how the very limited Christmas was, and how we're all managing too as well. It was just good to have a nice friendly face to talk to of course, and if I've learnt one thing in the last year or so, it's to be kind and look out for each other, which is why the wonderfully lovely You've Got A Friend by Carole King is tune of the day as it just sums it all up.

Wednesday 27th January - Conference Call

So around this time of year, it's always the annual work conference that we have. Normally this would have resulted in everyone being flown over from all corners of the globe to a hotel near the O2 in Greenwich, where everyone would be able to meet and chatter and have all sorts of seminars, meetings and group conference chats during the three days, including an end of year awards ceremony as well. Of course, things have changed now and that isn't at all possible whatsoever, so of course we were able to have to do something online instead which would be a webinar to attend during the afternoon and to have the business partner function part of the confernence remotely.

As it started at 1pm this did mean I had to take an earlier lunch than usual, and so decided that I needed to head over to Asda in order to get a few things sorted and some milk for some much needed coffee. I also did notice that the security was able to effectively tall people to put a face covering on and indeed enforce it, which pleased me no end to be honest. I was pretty chuffed to be able to do shopping in peace and quiet and got what I needed, and back in good time for three hours of information, which actually did prove to be pretty useful overall it has to be said. I'll try and briefly summarise in the next few sentences.

The first part of the conference was all down to the two main directors of the business, who explained how we had been during 2020 and where we would be able to go during 2021, permitting with the current pandemic situation. I for one definitely was intrigued by one of our staff, who works in our HR team and formerly used to be an actress in Coronation Street (true fact) was that she was being motivational. We also had the success stories from our part of the business during the afternoon and that was a really good feeling to see that overall we had done well and it reflected on the fact that we had been able to sort out so much.

It was pretty positive to know that we'd done all so well and will continue to do so, and I also had managed to be able to resolve a problem with MECM and the boot media - and all down to paths of certification. I knew that the PKI cert for the CMG was there, and the certification path has the intermediate and the root CA. So.. add both of those to the site properties, then update the CMG config, and then update the boot image ISO. It then boots, and because the certificate authority paths means that the cert on the CMG is verifiable, then boom, we can see the task sequences and we can also see the task sequence run and the operating system downloading.

With that all in place, I decided that I would also get some tweaks done around some of the content and ensure that it was distributable via the CMG if need be. Actually, if you log in to the Azure side on the portal and see the storage components, you can actually see the content that way by the internal package name (the same way you use Content Explorer) so good to know really. That was a positive. In the meantime it was nice to reminisce with the team about going to gigs as well and made me think of the last gig I went to - to see Seth Lakeman and indeed perform Kitty Jay at full blast with violin - definitely tune of the day for me.

Tuesday 26th January - Fantastic Five

It was another busy day of testing and investigating for me today, and I have to say that it was really good to be able to progress through a lengthy task for most of the day - which really did help with the fact that it was a removal task - so remove from this system, and another system, and another system and so on. In fact it worked out well because what it meant was that overall we'd be able to see how any reduction in the usage of what we have at present would work well (bonus) but of course means we keep things tidy too. I must admit that tidiness is always key - get your own house in order, and everything else pretty much follows.

I was also able to work out a plan of action for a potential to have another option to do things slightly differently in terms of the operating system and processes - at the moment I know there's some Powershell commands that you have to do for a few tasks, and I thought that actually if I added those into MECM, and then was able to right click and run them in Powershell, they would all work fine - and testing showed that it was to be the case - nice all round I think. For me at least it's definitely a good thing that I know that we can leverage a few things now over the cloud and be able to manage things better, as after all, management is also key.

The Love In My Heart had been shopping on the way home from work which did mean some nice food in for tea - she got some rib eye steaks which we had with some potato wedges, vegetables and a nice diane sauce as well which went down a treat. One thing I consider myself very lucky with at the moment is the fact that I am being well looked after in the food department by The Love, and that for me definitely has to be a positive thing all round. It is always also some nice quality time to sit at the table and have some food together too, makes a really good moment of time for us both. I must admit that when eventually I will head home, I will miss that.

As the Manchester City game at West Brom kicked off at 8.15pm I had the radio on via the laptop so I could keep an ear to the scores, and at the same time this meant that later on The Love and I could watch the celebrity version of the best home cook thing on BBC One. Of course for me that means added Claudia Winkleman (always a bonus) but I would be intrigued to see how good or bad the celebrities were at their skills. I did note a few faces I quite liked too including Ed Byrne, Ed Balls and Shobna Gulati formerly from Corrie, as well as Gareth Thomas the rugby legend, whose Glamorgan sausages were the highlight of the first round of cooking tests.

Of course City were doing their best to give me a nice happy moment, and Ilkay Gundogan was on top form to say the least - he scored twice, and Joao Cancelo also scored when the West Brom players hadn't played to the whistle thinking Bernardo Silva was offside when he wasn't. The end 5-0 scoreline was very good for City, and went top of the league too which made me very happy indeed, almost into a classic bit of The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary (as that rocks and Billy Duffy of the band is a City fan too so definitely tune of the day because of that.) Over in the cooking, Desiree Burch was out after a tense eliminator with Ruth Madeley and Karim Zeroual.

Monday 25th January - Another Day In Paradise

Another day at work for me today and the start of the week - well, a continuation of work that I had been doing over the weekend too. It did seem to me that things were settling nicely over in China, which was a positive thing, and I had a good chat with with my manager who praised me for getting things done and explaining the situation clearly to all, which was a very nice way to get the week started. I also had worked out too that the way that we could use the Cloud Management Gateway DP to effectively boot to and get the task sequence run wasn't going to work unless we went to use a certificate from a public CA so it'd authenticate without issues.

To be honest, I did suspect that was going to be a limitation where only token-based authentication comes into play anyway, and at least having done the research that made sense in order to see what happens. I haven't yet given up on this as there may be other avenues to explore, but we shall see how that works and take it from there, methinks. At least we know that there's a way of experimenting and testing that we can carry out, and I'm not one to give up easily at the best of times, so we shall see what happens. I also did some additional checks and tests as the January updates were being rolled out today to the business too.

I also spent some time today checking over some asset management options that I needed to see, and assisting my colleague in our Cyber Security team with eliminating duplicates that were appearing in one of our management consoles - we know the reason why this is, but just needed some checks and balances performing to ensure that what we were going to get rid of was the right thing. In fact, that also helped both ways with the planned licencing checks we both needed to do for some of our respective systems so actually really worked well in terms of being able to do some good cross-team working and work together. Always like that when it happens.

It was also time for tonight to have some lovely tea courtesy of The Love In My Heart, we had chicken katsu tonight. I do agree with her that the Asda sauce perhaps isn't the best one (the Sharwoods one wins but isn't so cheap) but we did manage to enjoy that whilst The Love was indulging with the soaps - double Coronation Street as well as Emmerdale. However, what we did settle in to watch was the documentary about Katie Price and her son Harvey, who has various medical and specialist learning needs, and the way that they were trying to see what could be an option for college education at a specialist place where the staff are well trained to deal with everyone.

It fascinated me that, like a number of autistic children, Harvey loved nothing more than to go to the local train station to see the trains come in and out - almost a calming influence. And indeed he would recite the announcements, and it was heartwarming when he met up with another train fan at Waterloo and they both really enjoyed seeing it all from the upper concourse. Sometimes, a shared interest with someone helps massively to not feel so alone, and you could tell that they both got on and enjoyed it. I am pretty sure it was the Epsom Downs branch line at the start too, notable for the single track down to Belmont and Banstead. Tune of the day is Train in Vain by The Clash, because it just made sense based on the train theme.

Sunday 24th January - Watch The Football

It was another early start for me, like it was yesterday, as I was able to work out what was going on with an additional final few machines for the migration that had been happening. In essence, there were three problem machines and I had worked out what was going on with all three. One of them was fairly easy to note - in that the service for netlogon wasn't set to automatic, so when a logon was attempted over the network it wasn't communicating with Active Directory, registering in DNS and therefore getting the AD site that it should do. Once that was set right, everything then started to work as intended.

Another was a more interesting one, and for me it was good to apply some knowledge of MECM to this one. In effect, someone had decided to set their wired network connection to be a metered connection (which you set in the network properties.) By default, wireless and wired are set to be non-metered, and 4G is, but you can toggle them all either way. With wired in an office set to metered, that wasn't of course quite right, so once set to unmetered, everything started to work, client push, applications, the lot. Good to get the last lot sorted and I will have some time to take back for it too, which is all good.

In fact I had just finished the final machine and had some lovely breakfast courtesy of The Love In My Heart, and settled in to then watch the FA Cup match between Chelsea and Luton Town. Chelsea went ahead with a controversial opening goal and then added a second, but Luton to be fair pulled a goal back before half time and did have some chances in the second half - they were going for it big time. Then of course Chelsea bring on Callum Hudson-Odoi, he changes the game and gives Tammy Abraham the easiest finish ever for the hat-trick and make the final score 3-1 to Chelsea. It could have been easier for them but full credit to Luton.

After a nice brew and a chat with The Love, I headed off for a walk down the local canal that runs close to The Love's place. It's around a mile or so up several locks to walk to the nearest branch of Home Bargains, where I got some flapjacks to have with coffee during the week, and also some of the Carlsberg Nordic Pilsner (the non-alcoholic one) for a mere 29p a can, absolute bargain that. It was a good little shopping trip and alternated the journey by walking down the main road homewards, so around two and a half miles of walking in all and another good excuse to wear in the new walking shoes I have here now.

The Love made some gorgeous roast chicken with all the trimmings for tea (I have been so spoilt for food really) and then I settled in with Brian the cat in the spare room to watch the Manchester United v Liverpool game. Unlike the league game this was end to end stuff, and the 1-1 scoreline at half time could have been many more. As it was, Bruno Fernandes came off the bench for United and scored the winner, and it was the settler for a tight game either side could have won, but at least entertaining for the neutral too. Later on The Love and I then watched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (make the theme tune tune of the day) and we had to laugh at one contestant who was far too cocky, and lost.

Saturday 23rd January - Cheltenham Cup Clash

It was an early start for me this morning, as my line manager gave me a call to see if I could help out with some of the issues with this weekend's migration in our new China office. The team were there doing their bit and most things had resolved themselves well, but a few were causing issues. I did look at them in depth and noted straight away what some of the issues were - they had been imported when they still had the old name, so had to re-do an installation of the MECM client, and that then registered things correctly. All was able to be sorted during the morning and it was rather good.

In fact, the team in the office had been invited to their evening gala that the company we were taking over had organised for their teams, and sent me and my manager some pictures later - it worked very nicely indeed including some shots of them which looked like they should be auditioning for a pop band, and also as well some interesting and varied foods on the table. It also felt surreal knowing that there was no social distancing in place and things appeared to be almost back to normal over there - much more so than the case here that's for sure. In any case it was good to be able to help out and we'll be sure to see more next week.

In the afternoon, The Love In My Heart had headed out to do some shopping, and in the meantime I spent some time watching the BBC Red Button for the West Ham versus Doncaster Rovers match. I must admit that the goal in the first two minutes didn't do Donny any good, and being 2-0 down by half time was symptomatic of what my Donny supporting friend told me later of the fact that there's defenders playing in the wrong positions. Indeed the goalkeeper was doing his best to keep the score down, but a 4-0 full time scoreline did at least seem to be reasonably fair, has to be sadly said. That set the scene up for the City game later though.

It was off to the Jonny-Rocks Stadium with BBC1 for the first ever meeting between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City, and in the FA Cup, live on BBC One. Clearly they thought that an upset was on the cards, and was a bit concerned with the ten changes from Wednesday night's game. After a missed chance within the first 30 seconds, City didn't do that much in the first half, apart from one shot from Benjamin Mendy that was superbly cleared off the line from Ben Tozer. The Cheltenham captain as superb, marshalling the defence and was always a danger with the long throw going forward as well.

In fact, in the second half, that long throw was vital. Tozer threw the ball in, and after a couple of headers the ball fell to their striker Alfie May, who wasn't going to miss from that range. Cheltenham Town were in front, and the upset was very much on. I was a bit concerned as the time went on, and going into the last ten minutes it was still 1-0 to Cheltenham and they were doing enough to keep it that way. City brought on Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan and Ruben Dias, and the first sub did help change the game, a threat down the right hand side and it was his cross that found the feet of Phil Foden at the far post to equalise.

I was relieved to be honest, and the relief was greater once a ball came through from Fernandinho which was met by Gabriel Jesus, and he smashed it home for 2-1. And with the very last attack of the game, Gundogan fed the ball to Ferran Torres and he couldn't miss, and 3-1 City. We got there in the end but I have to say Cheltenham played really well, and if they keep playing like that they will get promoted, no question. They play good stuff the right way and are dangerous in set pieces too. Tune of the day in the meantime is the Match of the Day theme tune, so good to hear that introducing proper football on proper telly.

Friday 22nd January - It's A Sin

It was a good start to Friday today as I got plenty of things in place and operational for the migrations of machines happening this weekend. I did notice one machine that did have an issue, but this was to do with the PATH variables being corrupted. Normally the system root paths are always designated as part of the path variable - more so because you want to run things from a command prompt with everything nicely specified all round. Unfotunately, it appeared that some of those commands wouldn't run because of the fact that it would be looking for a non-existent path. Once I got that all sorted, lo and behold, it all worked.

My colleague had his turn to host a little quiz during the afternoon and it was pretty good all round to be honest - he did well. The first round was anagrams of bands and artists, some of which were really easy (not much you can do with Blink 182 to be fair) but the others were rock hard - none of us got The Libertines for example. That was all good, and the second round was characters or sports people behind an emoji covering their face, to make it less obvious. Quite a few got a fair number of those, and in the end after two rounds myself and two colleagues tied on 13, with another of the team winning on 14, so pretty close really.

The Love In My Heart arrived home from work later on after having a good day and thankfully avoiding the snow that had fallen periodically. We decided it would be good to go to the local Chinese takeaway, so stopped off at Morrisons on the way and was able to get some really nice Big Drop 0.5% alcohol beers, including their lovely milk stout that I've raved about before. It was quiet in the Chinese, and got myself king prawns with mushrooms, and The Love got roast pork Kung Po. Both of them were gorgeous and it really did make for a nice Friday evening treat for us both and started the weekend well.

We then watched It's A Sin on Channel 4, which we had been looking forward to for a few weeks and definitely was going to be interesting to see, especially set during the 80s. Although most of it appeared to be filmed in Manchester, especially noting the Star and Garter, and the Northern Quarter, it obviously was seeing the main character played by Ollie Alexander having left the Isle of Wight and to London to study and meet fellow people, and be able to express himself. As you'd expect from Russell T Davies, you knew there'd be no punches pulled and of course plenty of gratituous passion, segued with the Hooked on Classics song.

It did though see the start of what would be discovered to be AIDS, and the stark scene of one of the characters being isolated in hospital, everything sanitised to the nth degree following a death, really hit home not just for how it was then but the current situation now. It did feel pretty stark but that was the reality, no doubt. Lots of 80s tunes throughout which was good, including Feels Like I'm In Love by Kelly Marie (make that one tune of the day as those boo boo effects are classic) and I'm sure as the series develops there'll be some dark moments along with plenty of 80s tunes.

Thursday 21st January - Fact Finding

It was a pretty positive today all round today, as I spent some further time checking out possible options in terms of being able to boot to the cloud management gateway from bootable media, and had posted on one of the Microsoft forums the symptoms. One of the experts from Microsoft did get back to me and confirmed pretty much what I thought, in that the configuration specified wouldn't allow it, unless we changed the certificate used for authentication to be a public one (where the CA would be pre-approved even in Windows PE) or inject a command in some way to approve the cert authority used.

If that is all the case, at least it may have saved me some time - and spent time this afternoon in conversation with one of the staff from one of our American offices, and was good to be able to get together, have a chat and work out some plans for the future, and also be able to offer some further support and training and learning together too. I do like positive things so that was definitely a good one to get through the afternoon on - as well as our larger team meeting that we also had which really was useful to get an idea of where the plans were for the whole year and how the work we'll all be doing fits into that.

I headed out to Asda during my lunch break as I needed to get some food in for tonight's tea, as well as also get some cat food for Brian as well - so managed to get some Dreamies and some tuna and prawn Sheba - his favourite. He was more than happy to see me when I got back and was happily munching some Dreamies too. I am sure that he has radar whenever the door goes and had trotted to the door when I got back in anticipation with a gentle purr of appreciation too. More so of course later when he had his Sheba for tea, and was all snuggled on the hammock too, because he's just so adorable.

I must admit that one of the things that have been keeping me going is a good quiz show - none more so than Richard Osman's House of Games on BBC2. There's always different rounds in the first four rounds and I liked the ones where the categories and questions were in European languages with the contestants having to work out the answers in two teams. Rory Bremner won today after three straight wins this week from Maisie Adam, and definitely was a close run thing after the final Answer Smash round as well. Definitely well worth a watch if you ever get the time around teatime.

Later on, The Love In My Heart and I watched Pooch Perfect on BBC One. We have grown to like the show a fair bit, and the varieties of dog on show always are different and difficult to groom too. The Love and I did admire the spiral challenge in the second half of the show, and one of the dogs came out on parade to Dead or Alive's classic You Spin Me Round (make it tune of the day) and looked ever so lovely. I think it's just a nice bit of feelgood telly and a welcome distraction - still not fully sure on Sheridan Smith as host, but the dogs are the stars of the show for sure.

Wednesday 20th January - Breakout On A Roll

It was a very important day today over in the USA, as the new President Joe Biden undertook the inaurguration ceremony, and the new Vice President Kamala Harris also was sworn in during said ceremony. Of course with recent events being what they were, it was a more low key ceremony and transition of power, but importantly it felt like the turning of a corner - with the likes of Lady Gaga singing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez also performing, and the pledge being both said and signed accordingly which was wonderfully inclusive, it did feel like more than a change at the top.

I have to say it was a calm and yet impressive speech by the new President. It was more about being together and not thinking of the divisions which were so binary in their description, and indeed to think about the whole country and the wider issues that surround them and the world. The fact for example that the USA will re-enter the Paris climate agreement is a big thing and not to be underestimated, it definitely for me was important to see that pledge reiterated and for it to happen will be a very good move. I think too the other key will be how the attitude towards the current pandemic will change.

I also was on a roll at work today. I was able to check one of our systems and pull together a list of what needed to be looked at, and pass that on to the relevant teams to check over. I was also able to create the media I needed to yesterday but it looked like when it attempted communication with the Cloud Management Gateway, it came back with an error, so not sure if the token authentication would be enough at that point, and even with a SHA256 based PKI certificate it also was showing similar - so I suspect there's something else which I may have to check out and do.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I were settled in and watching some telly after tea. I did note the appearance of Seth Lakeman during the Devon and Cornwall walks thing with Julia Bradbury talking about his native Dartmoor and walking to the grave of Kitty Jay, which of course was the title of one of his albums and still a track now he plays with the solo violin to impressive effect live too. I did quite like the walks and was able to see some of the Tors above Dartmoor as well which looked mightily impressive, more so with a blue sky and sunshine in the background.

Even more intriguing, after I had seen that Manchester City had beaten Aston Villa 2-0 to go top of the Premier League was one scene during Coronation Street, where Sean was having a little sing song and to a song both The Love and I both adore - Breakout by Swing Out Sister, so obviously tune of the day as that was being played out in the factory. Definitely good to have a Mancunian vibe in a Mancunian soap as well, and with the snow coming down in Manchester tonight it was nice to see Brian the cat looking outside and admiring the weather as it all came down.

Tuesday 19th January - A Case of Certification

It was another busy day for me today, and being able to do some investigative work was pretty good. I started to look into making inroads about how you would be able to get a bootable piece of media to boot to our Cloud Management Gateway instance is in MECM, and would then be able to bring down any task sequence content accordingly. Whether or not it would work would be interesting, but of course the main thing was to check over the setup first of all and see what happens - and of course check over the instructions. Remember folks, always read the manual.

So I was able to read all of that, and found that in theory you would be able to effectively create the media, and get it to choose the cloud management gateway as the management point. However, as we do use the token-based authentication method (as based on a per machine basis without Azure AD) it's whether that token can be effectively injected into the boot image, or if it can be gained from the CMG during the initial boot from the boot media. There may also be a way of getting a PKI certificate which has the CA authority mentioned and injected into the media. Options.

Of course, I then realised that I could also test using the self-signed method for boot media initially, and let that be able to assign its own signature from there. So the way forward was clear: create the boot media that way first, and then go for the PKI method using a certificate from the CA that also allows to authenticate to the CMG. I have ideas. It'll be interesting to see if they work, but that's kept me pretty busy whilst also writing up some documentation as well. I must admit that I do like to be able to have some more options to test from a work environment but not possible right now.

The Love In My Heart arrived home later on and with Brian the cat suitably fed and happy as per normal, we settled in for the evening. In fact The Love spent some time watching the next episodes of the drama Finding Alice on ITV Hub, with an excellent performance from Keeley Hawes in particular, definitely playing an emotionally psychotic mother in the main role - and really carrying it off well to be said. I did quite like it as well but at the same time did wonder how realistic the plot would be and whether it was over-emphasised for the dramatic content.

It was also interesting to note that Leicester City had beaten Chelsea and therefore had gone top of the league tonight after a very good 2-0 win. More so that the lead could change hands twice more this week, with City playing Aston Villa tomorrow before Manchester United go to Fulham, and definitely that'll be interesting. I did also today work with some classic 80s tunes in the background, so Vienna by Ultravox is tune of the day - and yes it does mean something to me, should have been number one back in the day as well to be perfectly honest.

Monday 18th January - Starting Another Week

It was the start of the third working week of the year, already, and I have to say it was nice to be up and about in good time and was able to take some time to have some breakfast and a coffee before starting the working day. The Love In My Heart had got up earlier and set off, but not without a visit from the black and white cat who was stressing out Brian the cat by being there and parading on the decking. He did go away and then came back later but Brian thankfully was in the other room, so was less stressed and all settled on the hammock, just wanting fuss, attention and cuddles.

I checked over a few reports during today and one of which was to try and chase some machines that may have not had some updates for a time, primarily if they had been ofline for some months. I was able to determine a list of those and to check in with our service teams and see what the response would be, as well as pursuing some machines which still needed the new update for the MECM client as well. It's been pretty productive and for me it's a case of getting so many things done to set the week off in the right manner and to have some good conversations with the manager and the teams.

I headed over to the local Asda during my lunch break, primarily for some essentials but also for a few things for The Love In My Heart for work as well. It was quite quiet in there but what pleased me immensely was that the store security staff were stopping people who didn't have a face covering on, and making sure there was a valid reason. Two of them were of course local scroats who had no reason and so, quite rightly, were either offered to mask up and enter or to leave. To be honest, this was needed months ago in most supermarkets but it wasn't necessarily for them to police, but the useless Government to enforce.

I got all I needed and also got Brian some salmon cat stick treats, and he was very happy indeed when I offered him one to be able to enjoy. He really did like little bites from it and was really pleased to see me offering too. In fact later after tea I had some sticky toffee pudding with custard, and he does quite like some custard so a small amount on my finger is enough for him to lick it off. Only one or two of those, but he was very much the cat who got the custard, not the cream, and he really purrs happily afterwards too. Always nice to be able to fuss over Brian the cat as well.

The Love In My Heart arrived home later on after a long day at work, and we settled in and had some spaghetti bolognaise for tea, which was again really nice. I also watched Only Connect, and I really liked the fact that I got a fair number of connections right tonight, including the opening picture connection of David Bowie songs, including the classic Heroes, which is tune of the day - I could indeed be a hero of Only Connect, just for one day, and certainly smashed it with the missing vowels right as well. Happy days all round.

Sunday 17th January - The Way Of The Tiger

It was really nice just to have a very long lie in with The Love In My Heart today. I think we both had had a long week, and to be perfectly honest, there wasn't really anywhere to go in terms of either going for a walk locally, or even thinking about a short drive to somewhere local to walk either, without it being really busy. In the end it was an easy decision to stay at home, stay in bed for a while but also and ultimately to stay safe. I have to admit that it's been a case of us both getting back into the case of how it was back in March last year, and sticking togther.

Brian the cat was of course wanting plenty of attention too - and he got that. He also likes to go in the shower after either of us have showered, and catch the drops of water that fall when you turn the shower off. He was happy enough and later on all snuggled up on the hammock and was keeping me company during the afternoon as I settled in to watch the Masters snooker final as The Love was watching the finale of Bridgerton in the front room. Brian was all purring happily which was good, and his little tiger face he has when he does so is quite apt considering.

You see, one of the finalists in the snooker, the 20 year old Chinese player Yan Bingtao, is nicknamed The Tiger. He was up against John Higgins, the Wizard of Wishaw, in the final, and the best of 19 frames. It was nip and tuck for most of the afternoon session, with only the odd mistake here and there determining the result of a frame, including some snatches on the final black. John Higgins went 5-3 up at the end of the afternoon session, and it was nicely poised for the evening ahead, which I would watch the remainder of once I got the football watched later on.

The Love In My Heart had made a really nice meal for tea for the evening, a really good wholesome lasagne with plenty of bolognaise sauce, carrots and mushrooms and lots of meat too. It felt very nice actually and we had some garlic bread to go with it, and it was very good to be able to relax before I would then watch the Manchester City versus Crystal Palace game - with City winning 4-0 and John Stones scoring two of them, amazing as that may sound. It also meant City would now be second in the table and with a game in hand so could be top later in the week as well.

After seeing the City game it was back to the snooker, and it was very tense indeed. In fact it had gone to 5-5, then 7-5 to John Higgins, and then a crucial frame. Higgins went in off on the black after the final red, and as it developed it was on the final black for the frame. Higgins attempted a double and missed, and so Yan Bingtao took the frame for 7-6. It was now a case of battling frames, and once Yan Bingtao got ahead I thought he would win, and win he did, 10-8, for his first Triple Crown trophy. He played very well and had the Eye of the Tiger infact (said tune by Survivor is tune of the day for obvious reasons.)

Saturday 16th January - Walking In The East

It was a nice lie in for both myself and The Love In My Heart this morning, and Brian the cat wasn't even on the bed. He was in fact trotting around quite happily and then resting by the hammock in the other room, or being sat on it looking outside. He does like sleeping in that hammock too, and it's now become his favourite place to rest and sleep. He of course headed up when I got up and wanted some fussing and attention once I started making a coffee this morning. We had some bacon on toast for breakfast later, and I was going to head out for a walk.

This would be a good time for me to break in my new Regatta walking shoes that arrived earlier in the week, so I've now got a pair for The Love's place and a pair at home. The good thing was that they were a really good fit of course, and plenty of cushioning as well as a really grippy sole. It didn't need a massive amount for where I was walking today as it was mainly tarmac paths, with only some leaf fall and cobbles to step over in the wet, but good to break them in and know I have them for walks where they're needed. So off I set and headed for the local canal and to walk for a good few miles.

I followed the canal near The Love's place and this took me underneath the main road and around the back of some factories, and then there was a right turn for the path which was also cycle path 60, so followed this which was a relatively straight path and took me around the local Matalan and then to another main road, and took this up to a local shopping centre, where I could have a good look inside Morrisons and B and M to see if there was anything I needed - mainly in the beer department. Nothing doing but did notice some potential good future purchases, and of course I was fully masked up.

It was then along another road which took me on a slight zig zag course back towards the canal, but this was further along the canal too, so followed this path back along towards a junction close to Home Bargains, and stopped off in there and picked up some flapjacks to have during the week as well as a couple of nice beers and some household items we needed too, so a nice pit stop there, and back to the canal to get walking all the way back to The Love's place. It definitely was a good walk and well worth doing to get some fresh air and exercise along the way.

The Love was at home when I got back, and she later headed off to Asda to get some shopping and I stayed in with Brian the cat seeing the snooker in the afternoon and an epic match with Yan Bingtao winning 6-5 against Stuart Bingham in an epic. We had a really nice game of Scrabble later where The Love made QUIZ in the top right corner for 66 points, an impressive move, and also we saw Pointless Celebrities which had songs from films including Don't Stop Me Now by Queen (make that tune of the day) which I knew was from Shaun of the Dead and would have won me the head to head too.

Friday 15th January - Let's Get Quizzical

It was the final day of the working week today, but plenty to be getting on with during the day. In fact I prepared a report during the day which was something in our inventory system which I needed to pull off, then do some further checks through to ensure that all is pretty well. In fact, I was able to find out that a lot of the content of the report I could cross-reference first of all, and then check over the remainder and send that off to a couple of teams to see if they could help out further. The good thing is that at least I have a good starting point now, and was able to sort out a fair bit there.

I was also able to check over the compliance of clients with the new MECM client, and it looked like a vast majority had upgraded and was going well - and for the remainder, I could see that in fact it was a case of them not being online. I was also able to see that in fact a considerable number had not only upgraded, but reporting back in nicely and showing that we have record numbers of clients online (having the cloud management gateway really does help with this to be perfectly honest.) So that was another good plus to be had today, so definitely felt like a very positive and good week.

Later on it was the team meeting, and I had a small quiz prepared as it was my term to do so. I got two rounds prepared which would be perfect for the amount of time we had. The first round was ten tunes played where you had to name the artist and also determine if it was a cover version or not. It was quite good to see who would get some of them especially as of course that I put in some songs which are more well known than the original despite being a cover version (I am not daft, me!) - and that went pretty well with people getting most of them the right way round too, so that was nice.

The second round I had was based on the missing vowels round from Only Connect, but with an additional twist. I called it rail replacement bus service, and was similar to how on Monday's Only Connect they had songs with train replaced by bus, but went with ten of them and indeed they also had to get the original artist of the song too. That went down well even though it was a lot harder to get right for some, so definitely good fun all round. One manager on the call said I was in the wrong vocation and should be devising quizzes full time, which was a really nice compliment.

The Love In My Heart arrived home and we ordered takeaway to be delivered - courtesy of La Canadian. Their burgers are always really nice when we've had them before, and I went for the steak burger with cheese and bacon, and The Love In My Heart had the quarter pounder with cheese which was also really nice. I watched The Last Leg later and they had Bez from Happy Mondays showing us his exercises, accompanied with said band's classics, so Hallelujah from the Madchester Rave On EP is definitely tune of the day.

Thursday 14th January - Return Of The Black And White Cat

It was a relatively calmer day weather wise, but still plenty to do in work. Following successful testing of the application I packaged yesterday, this was related to another application that I had previously packaged. So as part of a bit of consolidation, I ensured both were set up with suitable groups that were machine based groups - this is so that even using the token based authentication via the cloud management gateway, the machine would know it had something available if need be. It was also good to throw some ideas around too in a meeting later in the morning and was able to provide some good pointers.

I also was able to get a few thoughts down about the likes of offline servicing and how that potentially is doable. Normally I'd be able to use MDT to get a nice fresh WIM created of course, but at least as I'd created one recently pre-lockdown, I could make a copy of that WIM, and offline service that version into the new one (so I have a backup if we need it.) Overall, once I'd ticked the option to remove supersedes updates, that worked nicely and made sure that the size was consistent, and so at least if we need to have a new WIM deployed with the updates added, there are ways I can do that and be consistent.

This is part of a current plan since the MECM 2010 upgrade that effectively, I can get a USB boot stick created, and it connects to the cloud management gateway and downloads all the content needed that way to run the task sequence. Granted, you can't do everything such as AD join, but even getting the main chunk of OS and applications on is at least a start and would then allow for domain joining etc later on, provided it is connected to the VPN in some way. There may be ways this can done, so that's going to be good to try out once I get a piece of test kit sent up as well, so we shall see.

However, what Brian the cat wasn't appreciating this afternoon was the return of the black and white cat from the other day. It seemed that it did a lap of the car park and then came along the path, and to the window where Brian was sleeping on the hammock - he soon woke up and was getting a bit stressed. The Love In My Heart had arrived home from work and was doing her best to distract Brian, or get the black and white cat to go away. In the end she got Brian into one room I distracted the black and white cat to the other, so at least it was less stressful. Still, it wasn't giving up though.

I was just pleased when it left, and Brian came to join me in the other room and was back on the hammock all snuggled up and having a little cat snore that he does when he is asleep. I was relieved he was less stressed and that also made me feel more content, and he also had had some fresh chicken later too (he loves it) for a bit of tea, so that was nice. In the meantime I was sorting out the work quiz for Friday and playing some tunes to be contenders - one which didn't make it but is still a good tune is the ace Metal (as covered by Nine Inch Nails) so that's tune of the day - in fact it has Metal and also M.E by Gary Numan too, pretty fab.

Wednesday 13th January - Another Day In Rainy Paradise

Admittedly, this is the sort of day when working from home is a much better option all round. It had been raining quite heavily overnight and this carried on pretty much for most of the day, so was able to at least look out of the window and see the rain hammer it down whilst I was able to have Brian the cat as my work companion all snuggly and looking out of the window. He seemed a lot happier than yesterday due to no black and white cat showing up, and of course he was all resting on the hammock as well during the day, so was definitely relaxed - which is also good for me too.

I spent some time liaising with one of the staff members in our Shanghai office, and had worked out that a machine that they were looking at rebuilding was an unsupported model at present, so got the driver package added today so that they could give it all a go tomorrow. Although some like the approach of throwing every single driver at it, I am not one for that - keep things minimal, apply whatever you need and more to the point apply a stable approved package that works from the manufacturer. It's pretty neat how I've got it all too, so it's a case of getting the package added relatively speedily.

In fact what takes the time is the upload to some of the distribution points, so always give myself some prep time for that. I also packaged up a program mainly used by one of the offices, and this appeared to not only have a relatively clean installer, but also a nice clean uninstaller too, which is key in these sort of situations. One good bit of packaging and testing later and I was able to send out some instructions to the staff there so they could give it all a good testing over too - always better to have the users test everything out too as much as I can test here under the circumstances.

I was keeping one eye on the Manchester City versus Brighton and Hove Albion game later, and did see the highlights later on Match of the Day as well. I was pretty pleased too from a Fantasy League view as I had brought in Phil Foden and Joao Cancelo, and Foden scored the only goal with a cracking right foot shot, with Cancelo also keeping a clean sheet too - in fact he could have scored himself with a better shot in the second half, so that would be good. Crucially the 1-0 win puts City third in the table and still a game in hand over the top two, so we're right back in contention.

The other thing I've also been keeping an eye on this weeek is the Masters snooker. Admittedly this is with sadness, as I did have a ticket for Alexandra Palace but of course wasn't able to go due to the restrictions, and the tournament had been moved to Milton Keynes and the Marshall Arena too. It was a cracking match tonight and a final frame decider between Mark Allen and John Higgins, with Higgins getting over the line (just) to win. In the meantime his walk on music of Native New Yorker by Odyssey is definitely tune of the day as it's pretty catchy all round.

Tuesday 12th January - Resolution

It was a busy day for me especially this morning, and with Brian the cat also needing some attention as a black and white cat had turned up, was sat on the decking and was freaking Brian out by being there, so he was a little stressed and unhappy. I did manage to get the other cat to move away so Brian was more relaxed, but it was a balancing act to keep him occupied as also be able to resolve a couple of issues that were occuring today. I had plenty of people contact me and I had three meetings this morning to attend as well, so was a very busy person indeed.

One example was with one user that for some reason couldn't access one of our application portals for most of the web-based applications that we have in use. The idea behind that is that it's linked to a single initial sign on, so as long as you can access the page and sign in, all good. Except that for some reason one user wasn't able to even get to the login page, showing an error 403 that had stated access was blocked. I did some checks with our service team and the first thing we did notice that even if we logged on as another user on the same machine, still the same error.

We then next were able to see that if we had the user have their 4G mobile data switched on, and use the phone as a hotspot to connect to wirelessly from the laptop, this actually worked and didn't have an issue. So it hit me: what if the public facing IP address of the machine when connected via their broadband router was the one being blocked? A check with our security team showed that an IP blocklist does exist, and sure enough, when we checked and I got the public IP for the machine, that was on the block list. We removed that, and badabing! The user was able to log in.

It was good to know that, and had followed up on another issue being resolved this morning where I had a machine which wasn't able to install applications. I did some investigation and noted the error 1603, which appeared to be a generic MSI type error. Later on I worked out why: this was due to an install existing on the same machine, but for some reason was a non-standard install, placed elsewhere on the machine. I therefore removed that install, re-ran the task sequence via MECM with all the applications on, and that worked too, so was pleased that I had been able to find a resolution. Definitely a positive.

Meanwhile the black and white cat had returned and was trying to hide in the bushes and stalk out Brian the cat. Of course he wasn't happy whatsoever with that and so was able to at least sit and relax whilst I got the other cat to move. Needless to say he was happy when his Mummy arrived home later, and The Love In My Heart was pretty pleased to see him, which was good. I also was able later on to get a few things done as well and run some additional reports, so had, as Haircut 100 would have sang, a Fantastic Day (so make that tune of the day as it's fab.)

Monday 11th January - Back In The Groove

It was the start of another week at work, and plenty to get the proverbial teeth into. It's been a case of looking at a number of machines as part of a future migration plan at the moment, and seeing how viable those are. A fair number of those are ones where we may need to evaluate over time what's actually usable, as they are ones where they may be slightly older and they may have a limited warranty remaining. I was also able to look at a plan of action for the week ahead and start to work on one of those plans. I did have Brian the cat for company and was able to see him all snuggled up on his hammock, which cheered me up no end.

One of the plans I had was to check the list of machines in our inventory system against the list of staff. I was effectively looking at what users had recently left and so I could provide a list to our service teams to ensure we knew where all that kit was and had been returned safely. It's always good to periodically check this and to produce a suitable report, and it actually was positive that I had some feedback from a couple of our teams in that they had had some of the kit already returned and accounted for (bonus) and good for them to check against what they had too, so a double win and pretty helpful all round too.

It was a relatively cold day outside but later in the day Brian the cat was itching to play out when his Mummy got home, and The Love In My Heart duly obliged. It was though looking like it was going to throw it down so he just sat by the door and was looking outside as the weather got a little worse. I think he was glad that he was at least safe and sound though, and happily scoffed his tea later on and was having a cute little miaow at me and his Mummy for his Dreamies later. Needless to say, he scoffed those too and was purring contentedly later in the evening as we relaxed and chilled out together.

Tonight also saw the draws for both the fourth and the fifth round of the FA Cup, and of course as Manchester City had won yesterday, it was a case of seeing who we would get first. So we were second out of the draw, and therefore away to Cheltenham Town in the fourth round. I know that'd be a great tie for them to have and a potential giant killing there, and a potential tie of the round is Manchester United against Liverpool - who would have thought that. The fifth round draw followed soon after, so if we beat Cheltenham Town, we get the winners of the Swansea and Nottingham Forest game away from home.

As The Love In My Heart had made a gorgeous pasta with meatballs meal for tea, I enjoyed the food there and as The Love was watching the Pembrokeshire Murders on ITV1, I settled in to see the Masters snooker on the BBC Red Button. It was an exciting tie between Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams - which Murphy won 6-4 with a class final clearance after Mark Williams had rattled the jaws of the third to last red. I must admit though I did want to hear the proper snooker theme, Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band, and that has to be tune of the day as it is a total television theme tune classic of all time.

Sunday 10th January - Dunham Massey Drizzle-Free

It was nice to have a relaxing lie in with The Love In My Heart. Brian the cat of course was happily resting on the hammock anyway, and on top of that he was purring contentedly and curled up in a little ball. It was a bit drizzly this morning though so we were just a bit concerned that the rain might get worse and that the walk we had planned won't be as nice to do as it was before. We had some breakfast and a coffee, and was nice to be relaxed. We did try to see what the weather was going to do in the afternoon but this proved inconclusive, so we were going to leave later and chance it, see what happens.

The Love and I were all good to go, and left in The Love's car, along to the M56 and then down the A56 towards the turn off, and following the road to the entrance to Dunham Massey. We had booked the time slot in advance and on top of that we had ensured a suitable time, and plenty of watning signs not to go without tickets of course. The staff were lovely at the entrance to the car park, and the drizzle had stopped, which was rather good. We soon were making our way along the main path and past the frozen lake towards the house and the entrance to the gardens, so we could do a nice walk around there.

In fact, we could see the path and one-way system used for the Christmas lights that are on - these have now been cancelled due to the lockdown, with refunds being offered to those who had booked. All the lighting systems were stil up, so we could see the displays of all the lights as you walked round the garden. It did look really good and the main tunnel of lights like they have at Kew Gardens was at the far end of the gardens with a view of the house itself beyond. I can imagine how lovely it was especially as we could see that the path coverings had been taken up as part of the cancellation, but standing there and admiring the view was nice.

We also went past the two large reindeer sculptures covered in baubles and lights, which would also have looked really nice. It was good too to get a coffee and have that in the car after our walk - we'd done around a mile and a half or so, got some fresh air and been relatively safe as the numbers were limited, and the bad weather in the morning might have put people off too. We also headed back via the centre of Timperley and saw the Frank Sidebottom statue there of course - had to of course sing a bit of Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day (make that tune of the day) as it's a classic tune - and apt for later.

Indeed, Match of the Day was on BBC One with the FA Cup Third round tie between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur. This represented the biggest difference in league positions between clubs at this stage: a mere 161 positions. Marine did hold out for around 25 minutes and had a long range shot which hit the bar, but in the end Tottenham's class told and were 4-0 up at half time, with the final score being 5-0. That said, Marine did ever so well to get to this stage and had played eight matches just to get here, which says a lot about the impressive run. Earlier in the day too Manchester City had won 3-0 against Birmingham City, so all good there.

Saturday 9th January - Shuttling On A Saturday

It was a good day all round today, if a bit cold, and headed over to the local Asda in the morning to get some lunches for work next week and also some red wine as The Love In My Heart had all the other ingredients for coq au vin but just not that, so was looking forward to having that later on. It was relatively quiet in Asda for a Saturday and, shock horror, people were being sensible and keeping apart. I am just hoping that things are starting to sink in that we're in this together and we need to do all we can to keep apart, get the number of deaths down and try to get on top of this current wave of ifficulties too.

I spent a bit of time today with an older Shuttle little mini PC that The Love had had for some time with a view that we'd get it all checked over and ready for any donations to local schools if they needed anything to cover any laptop shortfalls. In fact when I did check over, it was a pretty decent AMD processor, RAM, hard disk and also a CD writer too, with USB and Firewire. It still had an older and unsupported version of Windows on, so thought that as it wasn't supported, I'd format the hard disk, put on a version of Ubuntu, and it could be ready to use for someone else - not least as you'd have LibreOffice and Firefox too.

Once I got all the BIOS settings sorted, I downloaded a 32-bit version of Ubuntu (the processor isn't 64-bit capable) and from then was able to use Rufus to put the installation onto a USB stick. The BIOS on the board recognised the Corsair Flash Voyager stick correctly, and booted from it, so was then a case of ensuring that the hard disk partitions were cleared (which they were, I had zero filled anyway) and then use the default partitioning to get Ubuntu installed. It took a little bit of time to do so, but soon I was asked to reboot the machine and when I did, there was the Ubuntu desktop.

I had been in touch with a couple of schools via one of the schemes suggested by BBC Make a Difference, and this meant that I had some replies from then - one had said that they thankfully had enough laptops already donated, and the other saying they couldn't make use of any desktops either, but both thanked me for offering. So if you know anyone who needs a desktop PC to help them with their studying at home, do let me know, I may be able to help out with something at least for the interim period. It'd be good recycling and of course plenty of sense to do that anyway.

Later on after some gorgeous coq au vin for tea (where The Love really excelled herself with the gorgeous red wine sauce and some potatoes in duck fat, stunning) I had a good online chat with a a few friends of mine. We were discussing appalling games and the Action 52 cartridge was mentioned for the Nintendo NES, and of course the infamous game The Cheetahmen. The theme tune to that is tune of the day as it's the only good thing about that game and surprisingly catchy - in fact one of my friends would very much like me to do a Commodore 64 version of that theme. Challenge probably accepted.

Friday 8th January - I'm Such A Tiny Rebel

It was the last day of the working week, and it was good to be able to get a few things resolved, and monitor the new MECM client deployment to ensure all was well. In fact it was going pretty well indeed - there's always a seven day time period for initial rollout so that it doesn't hammer the servers too much, and of course the good thing is that with the cloud management gateway in place, it doesn't have to get the content from the main DPs either, so definitely helped considerably in terms of that. It was also good to note that there appeared to be more machines online, so the start of the year certainly has made a fresh start.

I was due a delivery today from the folks at Tiny Rebel brewing based in Newport. I do like their beers, and also quite liked the fact for a while they've done a low alcohol version of their Clwb Tropica tropical beer which actually tastes pretty good. So clearly for anyone attempting Dry January, they added three more, a pale ale (Party Hard) a rhubarb and custard sour (Rhubarb and Custard) as well as a milk stout (Space Cake) - so you could get them all in a pack of 16 (four beers each) and I also ordered a nice beer glass at the same time. It was due to arrive today courtesy of APC, whom I'd never used for deliveries before.

Sure enough I had a phone call from the APC driver when he wasn't far away from The Love In My Heart's place, and checked which address it was (he had it right but good to double check) and came out to the front gate to pick them up. Spot on service, and as I discovered when I had the Rhubarb and Custard beer later in the evening, rather tasty as well, you wouldn't think they were a mere 0.5 percent each. I might have to update the non-alcohol beer review articles with some of the new ones, and do want to try some more as well. Not because I'm going completely dry this January, but good to have options to still enjoy a good beer and not feel so drunk.

Later on The Love arrived home from work and had clearly had a long day, so I suggested that I get a Chinese takeaway delivered for tea. There's a good one not far from here that does some excellent food, so The Love went for the chicken in kung po sauce, and I plumped for the crispy shredded beef in OK sauce. Both came with fried rice, and we went for it and got four large duck spring rolls to go with it (and they came with some plum sauce too, nice) - and it was very lovely indeed. We both enjoyed that and it was good to be relaxed after a long week at work for us both. And of course, good food always helps.

It was time later on for an hour and a half long special of Gogglebox, which focussed on the television shown over the Christmas period - and some old classic films that were shown as part of that. They had a good giggle at Home Alone 2, and also the rather scary Final Destination as well. We also watched Graham Norton which had Jimmy Fallon on, which was nice, and later I showed The Love a clip from Jimmy's show where the Sesame Street cast and his house band The Roots played the classic theme - definitely for me tune of the day and a total classic.

Thursday 7th January - Pooch Perfect

I was in a meeting with work this morning when The Love In My Heart was leaving for work herself, and so missed her little kiss goodbye as she set off. It sounds daft, but little things like that have been keeping me going at the moment, primarily as I know that it's going to be a similarly long haul to as it was back in last March, and the bits of support we can give each other are hugely appreciated. It has again though made me think about the future and if a long term move back North might actually be the better option - in an ideal scenario I could keep the job and be based up here, and only head down to the London office as needed. We shall see.

One interesting thing of note was that I did order myself over lunch time some new walking shoes which I'll keep up here. They're not too dissimilar to the pair I've got for my walks at home, which have served me very well and definitely have made life a lot easier when trudging along muddy paths or taking a long walk, comfort is key here. So these are the same brand, slightly different colour but crucially waterproof and also the right size and fit too - courtesy of the nice folks at Outdoor Look, and a mere twenty five pounds for them. Last pair I got was from TK Maxx and I could use my One4All gift card there, so didn't cost me anything per se, but around the same price for those shoes.

I know that a good walk, even if it will be local to keep in line with current restrictions, will keep me healthy and happy. There's a number of good local walks in paths close by I can do, and I did a few of them last May and June when the weather was nicer. For me just to be able to explore a bit is good, and I can also stay local and take walks in local parks and so on too, and if need be, go on more rugged terrain. There's no desginated distance as to what is deemed local, but most people I hope would be sensible and minimise any risk. This does seem far worse than March in terms of numbers of deaths, so need to act accordingly to be honest.

After The Love and I had our tea, we settled in to watch Pooch Perfect on BBC One, presented by Sheridan Smith with her dog Stanley. It's effectively a similar format to Bake Off, Sewing Bee etc but this time with two dog grooming tasks for the four contestants to do. The first is effectively to all have the same breed of dog and give that breed a nice makeover and groom - and they all had a shih tzu to sort out, which were lovable but not the easiest to get right. It was all good though in the end with some nice work being done, and the two judges seemed nice, as did the vet too who was on hand to make sure all the animals were okay.

The second challenge seemed more fun, they could pick from a particular category of breeds to do, this time around any poodle cross breeds, so the likes of cockapoo, labradoodle etd were featured. The owners of the dogs also got to see the groomer and dog take a catwalk like walk to show off their new style, and they all were just adorable. In the end two went through to the next round, but really nice to see that so many of them were good and you could tell they loved the dogs to bits. Not sure about Sheridan as a presenter though, part of me was thinking Paul O'Grady would have been great (unless contracted to ITV for some reason). In the meantime tune of the day is the classic Stooges song I Wanna Be Your Dog, I had it in my head the whole episode.

Wednesday 6th January - Quiet In The Aisles

I did need to go shopping for a few essentials this morning, ideally before I started work, and due to some light snow that had fallen overnight, it looked rather empty at the local Asda near The Love In My Heart's place. I had a thought that it'd be sensible to get what was needed now rather than later (which included some Mach 3 razor blades and some shaving gel as well, as needed both to keep all neat and tidy) and so headed through the light snow to the local Asda. It was delightfully empty to be honest, and they even had the Bangles classic Manic Monday playing (make that tune of the day) which was tempting me to sing along.

Still, with the aisles being nice and quiet, this did allow me to get all of what was needed - some items for the next two evening meals including a cracking deal where you get two pizzas (including Pizza Express ones), a side, so went for the dough balls, and a pack of drinks such as Coke or Diet Coke, all for seven pounds. Knowing that the Pizza Express pizzas can often cost as much as that, it wasn't a bad deal and we can always add toppings to the pizzas ourselves if we fancied it. I also got some more milk as I knew with me having coffee during the day and also some porridge, more milk would be used.

That started the day off nicely, and Brian the cat even decided to go and settled in the hammock in the spare room he got for Christmas off one of The Love's relatives. It has a meshed main seat surrounded by a sturdy exterior, and there's two straps which feed into two of four massive suckers, which stick to the window. So he can look outside if he wants to, or just have a nap. He had clambered on without me noticing and decided that a little sleep or two was his during the day - and if he likes it, well why the hell not? It was good to see him to peaceful and relaxed to be honest, that helped me too.

I was also pleased tonight that Manchester City did their best possible tribute to the late Colin Bell by effectively giving Manchester United a footballing lesson in the semi final of the Carabao Cup. It was a one legged affair at Old Trafford to help ease fixture congestion, and although the first half was 0-0 City had their chances, and looked solid in defence with Ruben Dias being impressive. I didn't expect though that the opening goal would come from John Stones of all people, diverting in a free kick perfectly into the bottom corner. Then again he has scored more goals at World Cup finals than Wayne Rooney.

City pressed on and it was left to the captain and the holding midfield maestro Fernandinho to launch one of his specials from outside the box, drilled perfectly into the bottom corner, a cracking strike. It ended up 2-0 to City and I was pretty pleased with all of that - it goes to show that after Sunday's impressive win at Chelsea, it looked like the folks were back into the groove nicely and with the final against Tottenham being moved to late April in an attempt to see if fans could actually attend, it might prove something to look forward to. We shall see, but in the meantime I'll relish this win nicely.

Tuesday 5th January - Farewell To The King

It was a busy day for me at work today, as I spent a fair bit of the morning performign the latest upgrade of Microsoft EndPoint Configuration Manager (MECM) to version 2010. It all went well without any issues and certainly was well worth the time I spent performing all the pre-requisite checks. In addition, any distribution point that was in maintenance mode wasn't upgraded as the system knew that it was under maintenance - so good to know that all was well. I definitely felt positive going into the rest of the day, and then had another good two meetings during the afternoon, and all was very good.

The Love In My Heart arrived back from her working day and she had had a busy day, and it was then time, as it was 12th night, to take the Christmas tree down. It was interesting that Brian the cat just wanted to stay under the tree and snuggle as long as possible as the baubles and decorations were being removed first, then the tree was then being taken down piece by piece. It did feel a little emptier in the flat with the tree down but we knew that it had to be done, and Brian consoled himself by a snuggle on the pouffle instead, because that's what he does.

I did however have some very sad news tonight: one of the all time legends of Manchester City, and constantly voted the club's greatest player, Colin Bell, had passed away at the age of 74. He had had a short illness but even so it did make me feel really sad. After all, it's not every day that the greatest player in your favourite club's history passed away, and not just that, but part of the first modern golden age of Manchester City, winning the league in 1968, FA Cup in 1969, European Cup Winners Cup in 1970, and the League Cup in 1970 and 1976, with consistently high league finishes.

Colin was nicknamed Nijinsky after a horse that had won the Derby, and had all the same attributes of being fast, but also very skilled, and with a perfect eye for a through ball. He was part of the trinity which included Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee and it was indeed such a golden age. Not just a footballer, he took part in the 1974 edition of the BBC multi-sport event Superstars, and finished a credible third a mere 5/6ths of a point behind David Hemery, with the winner that year being boxer John Conteh. Colin also won the steeplechase final event and was consistently good throughout.

He also played for England a fair number of times and during the 1970 World Cup, and eventually injuries caused retirement in the late 1970s. But the skill, guile and the midfield class he had lived on in so many fans' memories - both my grandad and uncle would have told me as a small child how good he was, and seeing a City game in the mist as a child with Colin Bell playing, even though at the time I probably wasn't fully aware what was going on, was special for me. It was of course fitting that when City moved to the Etihad Stadium, the main stand was renamed the Colin Bell Stand after the City legend.

It was good too in later years that those who became modern day legends and understood the club's history knew of and respected Colin Bell accordingly. The chant the fans used to sing was based on Lily The Pink by The Scaffold (make that tune of the day as it was ace) and we'd drink a drink a drink to Colin the king, he was the leader of Man City, and the greatest inside forward that the world (the word world would go on for ages) has ever seen. Happy memories but sad ones too - and ones we'll cherish even more that Colin has passed away and left us.

Monday 4th January - Lockdown Too Late

It was the first day back at work for me today, and it was good to settle back in and to get into the swing of things. I spent some time this morning catching up on my emails - of which there were a few - and then checking over the systems and infrastructure, making sure all was well for a systems upgrade that I plan to do tomorrow, all good things permitting. I must admit that it did feel odd to be back in work after being off for nearly two weeks or so, but knew at the same time it made sense to get on with it all. It's good that I can at least access all I need remotely with no issues.

As the day developed, I had noted that the Scottish Parliament and Nicola Sturgeon as leader had decided that Scotland were going to go into a full national lockdown on the mainland from midnight tonight. With that announced and decided, I suspected that it would only be a matter of time before lockdown in England was going to be announced. Sure enough, it was leaked to the media that there would be a Prime Minister announcement tonight, and it's so typical that a media leak is giving us all the information in advance of any proper announcement happening. Can't this Government get anything right?

Brian the cat was more than happily snuggling by the window, and it was then his tea time, so I fed him his tuna and some Dreamies and had a purr of contentment back from Brian, which was nice. It's good to be appreciated and of course it helped me through the day working from home having at least some company to be with - and of course having The Love In My Heart to be there for support too is going to be a good help all round. She arrived home in good time for us to both settle in for the evening, with me having on Rick Stein's Cornwall in the background, and will be a good series to watch.

After the soaps, we both tuned in to the Prime Minister's announcement on BBC1. It wasn't a surprise as to what was being announced, especially with the new strain being able to transmit more easily. We both noted that for both our jobs, the circumstances wouldn't change from what we were already doing - The Love's job suppports key workers, so she'll be as normal, and mine is already mainly remote and from home, so will be the same too. I do admit that there were no surprises in what I expected, but the return of the slogan of stay home, protect the NHS and save lives was long overdue.

I think though that it's a case of the Government being behind the curve yet again though: scientists were telling them to put restrictions in place earlier, but they were ignored: school teachers and parents requesting schools do not open, but ignored and then opened for one day and then shut. Absolute shambles. The only difference now is that the vaccine is around the corner for some. I needed something to rock to, so If You Wanna by The Vaccines is tune of the day - just what was needed after the day and a half that we're all expecting at the moment.

Sunday 3rd January - Sunday Roast Goodness

It was nice to have another relaxing lie in this morning. The Love In My Heart was having to give Brian the cat plenty of cuddles though, as Brian was lying on the bed and sprawled out ready for some tummy tickles and lots of cuddles. He was able to enjoy them all with a contented purr before then heading off to have a look outside. It was all rather lovely, it has to be said, and that was good set the morning off to a good start together. Brian even allowed me to give him tummy tickles too so he was definitely being super soft today. Aww, bless him.

My brother contacted me earlier this morning as he wanted to do a very quick drop off and handover of the presents he and his girlfriend had got myself and The Love for Christmas. It was a case of a drop off at the gate and being safe and distant about it. It was good to see he had got a replacement car to replace the old red Toyota Celica MR2 which really had to go - much more practical and definitely more what he needs. I got the Kevin Cummins photography book on Manchester which was excellent, and The Love received a nice Joules gift set with hand creams and gloves.

In the early afternoon, it was time for me to head over to Asda to get a few bits for next week - mainly lunches for work but also some other essentials. It was good just to have a little walk and it was relatively quiet as well which meant that it felt safer to shop around. I got what I needed and waited patiently in the queue for the quick pay tills, and was out of there relatively quickly. I did notice annoyingly though some without face coverings and not distancing - I obviously stayed well clear of all of that but you would think given the current situation, you'd do what you could to protect each other.

I was keeping an eye on Manchester City's away trip to Chelsea and pretty impressed that the team had won 3-1, so that puts the team into a good position for the rest of the season. The Love and I then had our boxes of goodies from Sam's Chop House all at room temperature, and ready to follow the instructions provided to have all the dish prepared for a lovely Sunday roast together - for me, that was roast beef, and for The Love, roast pork belly. Both looked good even before they were being cooked, but all was well when all the ingredients came out of the oven.

The roast beef was lovely and really had a consistency, and quite a bit of too, along with a rich velvety gravy, roasties, Yorkshire pud and a good selection of vegetables. The Love's pork belly was also very good too, and really did seem quite melt in the mouth as well. We both thoroughly enjoyed the meal together and it was such excellent service all round from Sam's Chop House - we can highly recommend it if you want a lovely Sunday roast with all the kit you need to do it. In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent Sunday Girl by Blondie, I had it in the head as I walked earlier and thought of when we could do other normal Sunday things.

Saturday 2nd January - Walking In The Snow

It was nice to have a good lie in this morning, not least with Brian the cat snuggled up on the bed next to his Mummy and insisting on plenty of cuddles. The Love In My Heart of course was more than happy to oblige, and Brian was purring loudly with contentment. It was nice to see of course, and once we were up and ready it was time for us to have some nice breakfast - a sausage toastie at that and very nice and filling that was. It was good too that the weather had at least relented for now, so with me contemplating a walk later on during the day, I thought it best to be ready for an incoming delivery that was happening.

A few days back, we had decided that we were going to order Sunday lunch from Sam's Chop House. They've been doing a home delivery service during the current situation where you get all the ingredients prepared and initially cooked in a box, with instructions to make it all on the day you need. I had a call from the staff this morning to confirm delivery and the member of staff was so lovely on the phone - and the delivery driver who came was also really friendly. So good customer service all round, and really was good to see. And it all looked very professional and nice when it arrived too, so we can look forward to Sunday roast in tomorrow.

I set off from The Love's place, heading towards the local cemetery which has nice wide paths for walking (and therefore you can distance safely). I did notice that the old chapel there is now surrounded by fencing and upon closer inspection, it's in a really bad state - the spire has had to be wrapped with slates and wire to ensure it doesn't get even worse, and the roof is in awful condition. It needs investment to bring it back to its former glory, and I'd love to see that happen as a place of rest and rememberance. I then headed out of the cemetery close to the catholic section and under the old railway arch towards Clayton Vale.

It's always a good walk from one side to the other along Clayton Vale - the main path is tarmac so is always good to walk on and not muddy, and as I crossed over the bridge over the River Medlock, it was starting to snow. I did have my hat with me and put that on as the snow started to fall more, and by the time I reached the other end of the park, around a mile or so, the snow was coming down. I sheltered under the building that normally has the cafe open (closed for obvious reasons) and admired the snow falling for a while, it was very wintry indeed and really did feel more seasonal as I headed out and up the hill towards Edge Lane.

I got to Edge Lane tram stop, headed into Quality Save for a few food supplies (as they sell a wide range of food, they can remain open, plus they were amongst the first to put staff policies in place to look after their wellbeing) and then headed on the tram back to The Love, and all was good there. We settled in for the afternoon and had a really nice chilled out day overall, and later on ended up watching The Voice. I think it was Sir Tom Jones' 80th birthday during filming and had Stevie Wonder send his old friend a video message, and to sing It's Not Unusual as well to Sir Tom (which was lovely, and therefore tune of the day) so that was a bright moment to enjoy too.

Friday 1st January - New Year, New World's Strongest Man

New Year's Day morning, with myself and The Love In My Heart thoroughly enjoying all the music featured. I have to say that it was very different with the selection being a mixture of archive and then performances with the orchestra, but having Tom Jones duet with Jools Holland and do Whispering Grass was rather good, as was Chris Difford joining the orchestra and belting out the Squeeze classic Cool For Cats (a classic and tune of the day especially of course as the middle piano bit was Jools originally also!) - and was a nice way to see things in with a glass of prosecco and a nice warm feeling of being together.

We had had a good sleep and woke up later to find a bit of frost outside, but no snow and Brian the cat was just happy looking out of the window and being able to watch the world going by. In fact, he didn't move much from the front room window all day - primarily because he's such a little cute cat, but also because he knows when he wants to be in stalking mode, which makes some sense at least. We had a very nice breakfast together and were planning to settle in for most of the day, with The Love heading over to Asda to get some supplies later, and it was peace and quiet for her on her own to get the bits which were neded. I settled in to watch some of the New Year telly and the racing from Musselburgh and Tramore.

The Love also spent some time catching up on the soaps which she hadn't watched on New Year's Eve as we were seeing other programmes on the telly. Later on she would be watching the soaps and I would be watching the Grand Final of World's Strongest Man, always a New Year tradition and one which I enjoy. I was glad that Channel 5 made the decision to extend the coverage to 90 minutes for the final a few years back, which meant more coverage now for the events too. And as I was to find out as I watched later, full of interesting results from all of the events and plenty of what if moments for a fair few of the contestants.

First up was the medley, carrying an anvil and then running with three bikes attached to a yoke. Adam Bishop set a time early on that wasn't to be beaten, Tom Stoltman dropped the anvil which lost some time, and Oleksii Novikov was very fast and second. Perhaps most surprising though was Brian Shaw not seemingly as good as he could be, and that continued in the 18 inch deadlift, first time that version event in the final since 1983. It went down to four men who lifted 507kg including Bishop, Novikov, Jerry Pritchett and JF Caron. Novikov lifted 536.5kg and broke the world record whilst doing so, absolutely mental.

The final event of the first day was the keg toss, and Tom Stoltman blasted all eight up and over in a shade over 20 seconds - JF Caron got close and might have won had the final keg not bounced off the top of the bar first, and plenty of the contestants had all eight thrown over in under 30 seconds. Day Two was the Hercules Hold - no one got near Mark Felix's world record, but Kevin Faires set the early time of 49 seconds, beaten by a 52 second effort for JF Caron. Tom Stoltman had a disaster and was last of the nine remaining contestants (Graham Hicks had to withdraw after the first event due to a torn bicep.) - and could that cost him, I wondered.

The fifth event was the log ladder, lift five logs above the head in ascending weight. Tom Stoltman got all five in the fastest time - an event he needed to win to keep in the hunt for a podium. Jerry Pritchett also beat Oleksii Novikov to get all five lifted, but crucially Novikov had four up in the fastest time so finished third in the event. It was a total disaster for JF Caron though - he was level on points with Novikov, but finished last. So going into the stones, Novikov was ahead of Pritchett and Caron, and Novikov did enough to win. Stoltman won the stones and with a mid finish from Pritchett, that meant that Oleksii Novikov was World's Strongest Man, with Tom Stoltman second and JF Caron third. If only Tom Stoltman's Hercules Hold was any good...